Democratic rights

The website of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) encourages its citizens to come and speak at meetings and gives clear good advice on how to do that.

So last week I went to the meeting of the NYCC Executive Committee to read a statement supporting an item about Proportional Representation – a cause I feel passionately about.

I was not the only one, there were several people there who read out a statement. There was no member of the public who opposed the motion.

I have no councillor that represents my views, that’s why I went to the meeting.

I naively thought that the Executive Committee might be pleased to see so many of the general public taking an interest in their agenda.

I naively thought my views would be treated with respect. Of course I know that no one person can represent all the views of their constituents.

That’s why we have opportunities such as these.

The chair of the meeting allowed us to be heard, in turn, efficiently.

At the end of our statements Cllr Gareth Dadd said that he thought this item was peripheral and political posturing – comments that were demeaning to us all.

I was not posturing and I do not think eight people supporting this item could be counted as peripheral.

We were exercising our democratic right to give our opinion and be heard.

I accept that not everyone will agree with my opinions, but to be swept aside with comments like these says perhaps, a lot about Cllr Dadd’s views about democratic voices and hearing a variety of views.

I hope he has a fuller repertoire of reasoned argument when the matter comes back to full council later this year, and that an informed debate can happen.

Georgie Sale, Richmond.

Voting system

AN historic moment occurred last Tuesday at Northallerton County Hall, a motion was considered at the county Executive Committee to recommend the use of Proportional Representation (PR) for future elections.

The motion was put before the Conservative-only committee by a Liberal Democrat and Green councillor.

Six members of the public spoke in favour of the change. One speaker even wore a scarf in suffragette colours to demonstrate the move to greater democracy in North Yorkshire.

Not surprisingly the Conservative councillors spoke strongly against a proposal that would lose them a number of positions on the council although it would improve the true representation of the county vote.

England is the only country in Europe that still uses “first past the post” in its political elections.

I am sure that the change to PR will come soon and your vote will then always count.

The motion will be considered again at the full county council meeting held on March 22.

Michael Chaloner, Aiskew, Bedale.

Fighting our war

IN response to Chris Pattison’s naive letter in advocating the halt of weapons to Ukraine “Weapons supply” (D&S Times, Feb 10).

The point your correspondent seems to be missing in quoting the 1945 foundation of the UN in response to the Second World War, is that World War Two only occurred as a result of weak reactions to the build-up of force by Germany in contravention of the terms of their surrender following the First World War.

In addition to this was Neville Chamberlain’s belief that he had an agreement with Hitler to not invade Poland. This agreement was broken within days.

The second Gulf War happened because in 1991 it was decided not to enter Baghdad and remove Saddam Hussein, thus allowing him to strengthen his position and build up his forces, necessitating a second intervention.

Following the 1981 defence review weakening the British presence in the South Atlantic, Argentina felt able to invade the Falklands.

Vladimir Putin was not challenged over his increased involvement in support of the Assad regime in Syria and their subsequent atrocities in that country.

Neither NATO nor the UN faced up to Putin over his annexation of the Crimea or Donbas, resulting in his belief that he could invade Ukraine.

Putin pulled the wool over the eyes of Donald Trump, who stated that Putin was to be trusted.

The moral of all of this is that capitulation and weakness never work.

Following the invasion a year ago of Ukraine, Putin stated that this was only the beginning of his plan for the re-establishment of Greater Russia.

Ukraine is fighting our war for us and should be given all the help it needs to force back the aggressor.

The alternative is Russian expansionism and widespread war in Europe eventually involving NATO.

David Race, Darlington.

Political parties

THERE is a choice; the decision is comparatively straightforward and should not be avoided because of mental lethargy, and, yes, it concerns politics.

As a frequent watcher of PMQs, I have observed that Labour’s deputy leader is a poor debater, but mostly, a political, mud-slinging trebuchet.

Be in no doubt, she has the full support of her leader, and many Labour MPs and Labour supporters outside Parliament.

She is faced in Parliament by people like Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, and indeed, Rishi Sunak, who are not attacked essentially for their policies, but very often for their integrity and best endeavours.

I know instinctively for whom I would vote.

The Left favourite seems to be the philosopher, Karl Marx, who advocated common ownership, and, I believe never, management by the State.

Any common ownership must be at arm’s length from management because the State is historically bad at running anything. There are many good and honest politicians in all parties but they do not necessarily come to the fore.

Perhaps we should find a new political system: voting for MPs on the basis of published manifestos; no political parties but only independent MPs; no three-line whips and a government voted for by all MPs; no financial support from trade unions, pressure groups or billionaires, and a federal kingdom; that would be real levelling-up.

In this way we would truly become a United Kingdom, and think more carefully about devolution. It is not a panacea for all wrongs.

Bernard Borman, Leyburn.

Priority patient

I AM happy to reveal a positive story about a patient’s treatment by the National Health Service.

As it is a successful one, although not major, it wouldn’t be reported by the media as it isn’t bad news. How many cases like the following I wonder go unreported?

My wife and I drove an elderly friend (thinking about it most of our friends are now elderly) to her optician’s appointment in Darlington (Boots) and as a result of the examination the optician wasn’t happy with his findings. He advised our friend he was going to refer the matter to the ophthalmic department of the Darlington Memorial Hospital.

This was Friday, February 10 and information about this appointment at DMH would be advised to her.

At midday our friend was contacted and requested to attend for an appointment at DMH at 1pm that same day.

After an extensive eye examination and other treatment applying to the condition I was able to collect our friend from the hospital at 5.45pm who was really pleased by the attention given. Contact is now awaited from the hospital for further examinations.

Mike Taylor, Darlington.

Fawlty experience

THE classic sitcom Fawlty Towers is set for a comeback with original writer, 83-year-old John Cleese penning the scripts.

Twelve episodes were broadcast on BBC2 in 1975 and 1979. Set in a fictional Torquay hotel the comedy centres around a rude snobby hotel owner Basil Fawlty and his nagging wife Sybil (Prunella Scales).

The reason we all love Basil Fawlty is because everybody has met at least one real-life Basil in their life.

My most memorable Fawlty moment was in Scarborough a number of years ago. A large group of us had booked into what appeared to be a rather delightful country hotel.

Upon checking in it seemed apparent the great Yorkshire hospitality must be an urban myth. This cantankerous and rude geezer wasn’t prejudiced – he had a go at everyone, young and old alike.

It was a case of no muddy boots, no warm water, no cluttering up the lounge and lights out by 9.30pm.

Clearly Ofsted did not visit the hotel charm school he attended.

The cheek of the guy, he’d even nicked a line from a famous retro episode of Fawlty Towers. A guest politely asked him if he knew anywhere that did French food. To his reply: ‘’Yes, France I believe’’.

Stephen Dixon, Redcar.

Profiting from oil

AS the UK shivers, BP made £23bn profit in one year.

‘’Sickening’’ is how Global Justice described Shell and BP’s renewed investment in fossil fuels, following record profits from the two energy giants.

BP are particularly brazen. It distributed £11.8bn to shareholders. Fourteen times more than it invested in renewables.

Think tank Commonwealth accused both companies of ‘’doubling down on fossil fuel investment for the long term’’.

There have been more calls for proper windfall taxes that really hurt. Taxes that force companies to change course.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves accused the government of shielding the energy companies, who she said were making profits ‘’that are the windfalls of war’’.

Rachel, I challenge you to extend this criticism to the British arms industry?

On their own, windfall taxes are not the answer. Britain needs a planned energy transition, managed by people with a stake in its success rather than its failure. This means public ownership of the energy sector. The interests of working people must come before shareholders.

China dominates solar and wind-power technology, not because of some wicked conspiracy but because of planned, long term investment over decades.

Addressing the UK’s security needs comes from facing and dealing with climate change, not falling for US spook-generated nonsense about spy balloons.

C Walker, Darlington.

Bus lifeline

I AGREE with Elaine Wright about local buses, if we don’t use them, we lose them “Bus service support” (D&S Times letters, Feb 3).

I feel very fortunate in the fact that we have The Little White Bus.

During the Covid crisis it was kept spotless, and masks had to be worn.

We used to have it running two days a week, now only one and the drivers are volunteers.

But I am still very grateful, lots of us live alone and the bus is a lifeline. Lots of us rely on it.

The service is so good and the drivers very kind and helpful.

It is really well run, so please don’t stop it altogether. A very grateful passenger.

Dulcie Farmer, Catterick Village.

Passenger numbers

VALENTINE’S DAY on Tuesday marked the half way point in a three-month scheme to limit adult single bus fares to a maximum of £2.

All North Yorkshire bus operators are participating (and also many more elsewhere).

On many bus journeys, two £2 adult single tickets are cheaper than a standard return ticket (valid bus passes for free travel apply as usual during the offer).

This government-funded scheme is due to end on March 31. Meanwhile, it is a good opportunity to enjoy an early spring day out; shop somewhere different; commute without worrying about finding a parking space; visit friends and family – or just explore a new journey.

It’s also a chance to show that reduced bus fares attract more passengers.

Ruth Annison, Askrigg, Leyburn.

Political decency

WHY is it whenever I hear the words “Boris” and “Johnson” I think “alley” and “cat”? I don’t know.

Any other voter out there thinking that the bar of political decency is now set so low only a professional limbo dancer could get lower?

Alexandra Bailey, Darlington.